March 20, 2013
To buy a handgun in Michigan, after filling out federal Form 4473 you have to drop off a registration card at your local police department. That card is then forwarded to the Michigan State Police, which handles the statewide reporting to the BATFE. I received a phone call from a confused MSP trooper not too long ago who was having trouble with the make of a gun I'd picked up.
"It's a Caracal," I told him.
"I thought that was a typo," he admitted. "It's not in our system."
"It will be," I assured him.
The Caracal is produced in an unlikely location: the United Arab Emirates. While it was officially designed in 2005, it has not been available in this country until recently. The Caracal is now the service pistol of the U.A.E. and, more impressively, it was submitted and passed the grueling German Federal Police Standard and the German Federal Armed Forces Technical Purchasing requirements.
If it looks vaguely familiar to you, the polymer-framed Caracal pistol was designed by a team led by Austrian Wilhelm Bubits, who designed the Steyr M pistol and was on the original Glock design team. And in case you're wondering about the name, a caracal is a desert lynx.
Right now the Caracal is offered in two models—the full-size F and the compact C—and I obtained the Caracal F for testing. While it can be compared to a Glock 17 in size, the Caracal F is shorter in length and height, although it is slightly wider and a few ounces heavier.
The pistol looks and feels like it was designed and made somewhere within shouting distance of the Rhine; the parts all appeared well-made, and the slide-to-frame fit was very nice for a polymer-framed pistol.
The metal finish looks like standard bluing but is actually a proprietary finish called Plasox. This is a plasma-based nitriding surface treatment supposed to be resistant to aggressive environmental conditions. The pistol actually looks much nicer in person than it does in photos. My only complaint with the finish is that it is too slick; trying to rack the slide using anything but the slide serrations is a non-starter.
The Caracal does not have replaceable or interchangeable backstraps, as many polymer pistols now do. As the Caracal's grip is just not that big I don't think this is a deal breaker. Its grip angle is actually just a hair more than a Glock.
The front and back of the grip frame are checkered but not very aggressively. Magazines hold 18 rounds of 9mm and seem very well-made. The magazine release on the pistol is ambidextrous.
The rear sight of the Caracal is part of the firing pin unit. The entire rear of this unit, including the sight, is serrated. There is a large white dot on the dovetailed steel front sight of the Caracal F, and one just below the notch of the rear sight in a figure 8 setup (also available in traditional three-dot and a proprietary Quick Acquisition Sight System that places the rear sight in front of the ejection port).
The advertised and measured trigger pull for the Caracal is 4.8 pounds, which is excellent. The Caracal also has a low bore axis, and the combination of that and the light trigger makes this one very comfortable pistol to shoot.
My only concern before taking the pistol to the range was the position and shape of the slide stop lever. While slightly rounded, it is basically a horizontal triangle of steel that sticks out of the gun right about where my thumb sits.
I shoot everything with a thumb-high hold, and while I didn't have any problems with accidentally kicking up the slide stop with my thumb, my thumb is long enough to ride the slide stop. That means the Caracal is just one more pistol whose slide won't lock back for me. However, the Caracal's slide stop actually sticks out enough that a user can drop the slide with a thumb.
Some manufacturers are already making holsters for the Caracal (including the Blackhawk! Serpa), and I determined that the Caracal F will fit into just about every leather holster designed for the Glock 20/21 or four-inch Springfield XD. Kydex/polymer holsters are less forgiving when it comes to fit, but as more Caracals are sold, more manufacturers will start to make holsters to fit them.
I am a fan of striker-fired pistols, and liked the Caracal. As a brand-new design I think there are a few things they could and maybe will improve. The pistol begs for rougher finish on the slide or forward cocking serrations, and the slide stop seems oddly shaped, but this pistol is a shooter. I think the Caracal will be around for a while.